What Is Peer Support?

Find out what peer support is, how it works and how it could help you

You may have heard the words ‘peer support’ in the past and have no idea what it means or what it involves, or someone might have suggested peer support as a treatment tool for an issue you may be struggling with. But what is it?  

Put simply, it’s when a group of people who have similar issues or experiences come together to try to help each other.

How Does It Work?

Peer support groups can be a great source of comfort for people who are facing a range of issues. Groups are available for people who share common struggles or experiences with things like:

  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Disabilities
  • Grief
  • Addiction
  • Abuse
  • Racial prejudices

Peer groups can be an effective tool to help you cope with whatever challenge you’re facing. It can be reassuring to talk to and hear from people who are going through similar experiences to you. Having the support of your peers makes you feel accepted and understood.

Just knowing that you have something in common with someone can make you feel more relaxed and comfortable when it comes to talking about your own issues and concerns. It’s usually easier to talk openly and honestly to people you can relate to, which is why peer support may have been recommended to you instead of one-to-one therapy.

Getting And Giving Support

The great thing about peer support groups is that everyone who is there is equal. Everyone’s experiences matter. Everyone’s voice will be heard. It’s a safe space where you can share your stories, ask for advice, and give advice. There’s no pressure to speak if you don’t want to – you can simply listen. Hearing others’ experiences and their individual ways of coping can be helpful for your own healing journey.

What’s Involved?

Your peer group may stick to chats and discussions or it could be activity-based. For example, there are many walking groups for mental health where a group of people get together to go for a stroll and a chat. Gardening, art and sport are       also popular activities for peer groups.

During recent lockdowns, many peer groups have had to move their regular catch-ups to an online platform such as Zoom or Facebook. Others have adapted by taking their activities outdoors to allow members to still meet up – socially-distanced, of course.

Where Can I Find Peer Support?

There are lots of ways to find your nearest peer support group. Ask your doctor or therapist if they know of any peer support groups you can join – you may need a referral from your doctor before joining. Your school counsellor or guidance teacher might also have a list of local groups or you can try searching online.

Further Help

If you’re unsure whether or not peer support is right for you, take a look at Mind to find out more: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/peer-support/is-peer-support-right-for-me/


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